Successful smart grid optimization


By Jason Rodriguez, CEO and Director of Research, Zpryme

Jason Rodriguez, CEO, Director of Research, Zpryme

Many utilities are investigating different ways to derive the most benefit from the deployment of smart grid technology.  Smart grid optimization allows a utility to maximize the benefits they receive from their electrical system. Some of these benefits include increased grid stability and system security, reduced outage response times, a better ability to forecast energy demand, and reduced energy rates for their customers.

Duke Energy and Hydro One Energy have both implemented smart grid optimization plans and provide real life examples of how tools can be utilized successfully, as well as illustrate the successes and challenges utilities face when improving their electric systems.

First Step to Success
From the start of the planning process, a utility must examine the benefits it seeks to obtain from smart grid optimization efforts as it considers the different ways that these benefits can be achieved.  Utilities must also examine the cost of any option, and the expected return-on-investment for a specific program or technology.  The utility can also experience efficiency improvements, and set acceptable and realistic efficiency goals to guide optimization deployment.

  Finding the right balance of cost, efficiency, and reliability is imperative for successful optimization installation.  For example, worldwide transmission and distribution losses account for almost 9 percent of all electricity supplied. Improvements to reduce T&D losses will reduce costs for utilities by allowing them to produce less energy to meet its needs, create a more efficient system, and a more reliable grid.  For that reason, reducing T&D losses is a major goal of many utilities.


From the start of the planning process, a utility must examine the benefits it seeks to obtain from smart grid optimization efforts as it considers the different ways that these benefits can be achieved.

Several technological options are being deployed to create smart grid optimization and are based on different approaches to grid optimization.  First, many utilities are deploying feeder automation programs, including frequency and volt regulation, which use advanced grid data to identify the optimum settings for the system at any given time, as well as regulate the entire system to perform at these optimum settings.

EPRI estimated that the cost of integrating feeder automation into the smart grid at $70 billion.  In addition, as of 2005, the DOE reported that 20 percent of all utilities had instituted feeder automation programs.  Distribution automation (DA) programs allow different methods of generation, including renewable distributed generation, to be incorporated in the overall utility system.  From 2012 to 2020, Zpryme projects the global distribution automation market to grow from $5.7 billion to $33.9 billion, respectively. 

In addition, substation automation programs, including capacitor optimization, SCADA integration, and fault detection programs are other key areas of smart grid optimization.  Capacitor optimization programs identify key strategic capacitor locations to provide the most efficient connection and voltage support.  Fault detection programs not only identify fault locations, but they also semi-automatically correct them.  In the future, they will be self-correcting.

Other methods used to optimize the smart grid are smart transformer technology, which improves monitoring efforts to identify and correct problems before they occur, as well as improves the lifetime usage of a utility's transformers and other technology. Further, advanced analytics technologies can identify and maintain system stability at an optimum level for a given utility.    Each method of optimization addresses key areas of potential improvement, based on different ideas of how optimization can be best implemented.  New technology is also being introduced very quickly, so it is very important for a utility to remain updated on optimization programs and technologies, as well as the benefits they offer.